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TELL US WHAT YOU THINK: Council warns recession is starting to affect care home quality in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 12:01 04 January 2012 | UPDATED: 16:54 04 January 2012

Elderly residents in a care home in Norwich.  Photo: Bill Smith  For: EN  Archant © 2006

Elderly residents in a care home in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith For: EN Archant © 2006

Archant © 2006

Council officials have warned the quality of care home services is being affected by a “squeeze” on staff numbers, training and activities.

As the county’s population lives longer, the Evening News today wants to know your views about how services can be protected as spending cuts continue to be made.

Tell us your ideas and give us your comments on how to ensure older people receive the best care service possible.

Council officials have warned the quality of care home services is being affected by a “squeeze” on staff numbers, training and activities.

And the effects of the recession are beginning to be seen as care home providers deal with falling income by either making more savings or reducing spending, according to a Norfolk County Council report.

This emerged as it was revealed one out of four inspection checks carried out in Norfolk’s residential and nursing homes did not meet the required standards.

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) latest findings concluded in Norfolk’s nursing and residential homes that 308 of the 1,212 tests were “non-compliant” with regulations. Of this figure, 146 were classified as minor issues, 117 as moderate and 45 as major. The remaining 904 checks were compliant.

The CQC monitors whether homes meet their elderly residents’ needs, including nutrition, cleanliness and safety.

The council report said: “Our view is that since the change in assessment mechanism by CQC, the overall level of quality of services has remained the same. However, we are now beginning to see the effects of the economic situation bite.

“As income is restricted, providers must either generate efficiencies or reduce expenditure to balance the books and stay in business. There is some evidence that there is a squeeze on staff numbers and on spending on training and activities, all of which will affect the quality of services.”

Councillors yesterday continued to question why the county council is proposing to cut £185,000 from the Quality Assurance Service, which monitors social care standards.

They fear it could jeopardise older people’s safety, although the council insists it is developing a replacement service and nothing will be cut until that is ready.

Harold Bodmer, the county council’s director of community services, told a meeting yesterday: “Non compliance doesn’t mean that 25pc of homes are not safe.

“What it means is there might be some very minor things that have not been put right.

“It might be maintenance or it might be how medication is recorded. Where there are major concerns we focus our resources and work with the CQC to see standards improve.”

Councillor George Nobbs, Labour group leader, said: “I note in the budget proposals we will reduce the scale of capacity for quality assurance by £185,000. I don’t know if that’s wise or not. This is such a huge issue and so important and causes so much concern to the public.”
Cllr Nobbs’s proposal for a seminar to educate councillors about the Quality Assurance Service’s work was approved.

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